Hungry No More feeds children after school, during the summer
GRANITEVILE — Feeding America, an organization that tracks and fights hunger in America, has some alarming statistics about Aiken County.
The latest set of numbers, which are from 2011, showed that the child food insecurity rate was 24.5 percent. Put another way, there were 8,950 food insecure children locally.
Hungry No More's mission is to provide a solution to the problem.
“Our organization was put together to address the nutritional needs of children, and our primary focus, at this time, is our after-school and summer feeding programs,” said Sharon Kelley, Hungry No More's program director.
Young people participating in sports, tutoring sessions and other activities have received or are receiving meals, mostly on a Monday through Friday basis.
In 2013, Hungry No More's summer feeding program distributed more than 30,000 meals.
“For a site to be approved, it has to be in an area where 50 percent or more of students receive free or reduced-price school lunches,” said Kay Benitez, who is the executive director of another charitable organization, Megiddo Dream Station, and a founder of Hungry No More.
A typical Hungry No More dinner consists of a quarter or half portion of a Subway sandwich (depending on the child's age), a fruit cup and milk.
“Each meal has five nutritional components, and the beauty of a Subway sub is that it has three of those components in it,” Kelley said.
Hungry No More's estimated budget for this year is $250,000. The organization gets funding for its efforts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private donations. Hungry No More's office is in the same Canal Street building where Megiddo Dream Station is located.
Benitez said Leadership Aiken's class of 2010-2011 played an important role in the creation of Hungry No More. One of the group's projects was collecting food and money for Golden Harvest Food Bank's BackPack Program. Through that initiative, children in need get nutritious food that they can eat over the weekend when they aren't in school.
At the time Leadership Aiken's class of 2010-2011 was active, Benitez was working for Golden Harvest. Some of the class members wanted to know what the kids they were working to help ate during the summer when they weren't receiving BackPack Program food and dining on school lunches, so Benitez did some research.
“We found out that many of them were going hungry,” Benitez said, and that led to the formation of Hungry No More, which received approval for nonprofit status in June 2012.
In addition to providing after-school and summer meals to young people, Hungry No More has a program that allows people to purchase a discounted box of food once a month. There are no income restrictions.
“Part of Hungry No More's concern is trying to make sure that people eat healthy,” Benitez said. “But even though anybody can take advantage of the program, the real desire is to make sure that a person who is on disability and getting $60 worth of food stamps a month is going to be able to buy good food to eat.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013.